Fear and Loathing in the Gurdwara

Earlier this week in B.C., hundreds of Sikhs protested the arrival of Mann Singh Pehowa, a granthi accused of rape, misconduct, and blasphemy.

There is, of course, an underlying issue here regarding whether or not Pehowa supports his own dera, has encouraged blasphemy, etc. There is pretty widespread criticism of him, as an individual, as well as of his behavior. I do not want to use this opportunity to get into the nitty gritty of deras and blasphemy, but rather, to focus on the issue of religion and exploitation.

Earlier in the year, Sundari discussed sexual assault in the context of a larger community-level failure to ensure gender equity. Sexual abuse is not new to faith communities, but it evokes jarring feelings of betrayal, condemnation, and deep psychological trauma, both among those who are abused and among their loved ones.

While I grew up relatively aware of the latent (and sometimes blatant) sexism that plays out in many sangats, I remember the first time a friend confided that she had been molested by a granthi. I was shocked, in large part because such abuse seemed so foreign to me that I could not fully reconcile it with my understanding of granthis and Sikhi. While I believed and supported my friend at the logical level, I found myself disoriented, disturbed, and distressed at a more emotional level. How could anyone who claimed to devote his life to Sikhi victimize a child?

It was not until I became older that I realized this issue is more pervasive and more widespread than I had ever known. It gave me pause, though. I wondered how survivors of such violence were supposed to receive adequate support, counseling, and separation from their abusers when sexual abuse is so stigmatized and silenced within our community. There are still many who do not acknowledge that this is a real and recurring issue. How, then, can we move forward?

It is unclear if protestors were gathered to oppose Mann Singh because of his alleged blasphemy, or because of his rape allegations. While the Sikh community does not (yet) seem to be in the same kind of crisis that the Catholic Church experienced several years ago, I keep wondering if we will take issues of exploitation and abuse head on, or if we will continue to act in denial of these experiences.


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20 Responses to “Fear and Loathing in the Gurdwara”

  1. LOL says:

    litsen to the kirtans and look at the seva being done, before make ur mind up on sum rss made up stuff

  2. LOL says:

    litsen to the kirtans and look at the seva being done, before make ur mind up on sum rss made up stuff

  3. Camille says:

    It would be great if responses were on point, related to the post, or at least offered some degree of sensitivity to the survivors of sexual abuse instead of providing dismissive red herrings.

    Thanks.

  4. Camille says:

    It would be great if responses were on point, related to the post, or at least offered some degree of sensitivity to the survivors of sexual abuse instead of providing dismissive red herrings.

    Thanks.

  5. Gagandeep Singh says:

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh, Veero look on the history, the world has tried to disparage the Sikh Saints and scholars time and again. Please listen to katha by Sant Baba Mann Singh and notice the number of people who got Amritpan with the endeavors of Sant Baba Mann Singh. His nishkaam seva for the Sikh Panth cannot be ignored.

    We should not let the enemies of sikhism to disparage our saints. If we cannot do something good for Khalsa Panth, we should not disparage the followers of Sikh faith such as Sant Baba Maan Singh.

    Waheguru Sanu Sumatt Bakhshe. Gurfateh Pyareo.

  6. Gagandeep Singh says:

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh, Veero look on the history, the world has tried to disparage the Sikh Saints and scholars time and again. Please listen to katha by Sant Baba Mann Singh and notice the number of people who got Amritpan with the endeavors of Sant Baba Mann Singh. His nishkaam seva for the Sikh Panth cannot be ignored.
    We should not let the enemies of sikhism to disparage our saints. If we cannot do something good for Khalsa Panth, we should not disparage the followers of Sikh faith such as Sant Baba Maan Singh.
    Waheguru Sanu Sumatt Bakhshe. Gurfateh Pyareo.

  7. P.Singh says:

    Give me a break.

    Mann of Pehowa is no saint. Moreover, if a "saint" is a rapist, he should be disparaged (if not strung up by his heels, and whipped to death).

    Mann of Pehowa is an embarrassment and detriment to the entire Sikh community, and no amount of chimtay rattling can deflect from the accusations made against him.

    Before dismissing the accusations, bear in mind, some of these women have gone public with these accusations, have little to gain, and much to lose, in addition to dealing with the stigma of rape in our community.

    Also keep in mind, many of us in the Sikh communities visited by Mann of Pehowa, have met with these women, and heard their stories.

    The courage of these women is phenomenal, especially in the face of such a huge betrayal of trust. Some of these women have not gone public for obvious reasons.

    I've had the opportunity to speak to one such woman, and have seen the effect of this crime on her family, her husband, and young children.

    If you want to support the Rapist Baba, do so elsewhere. As it is, American and Canadian sangats are showering him with 'shittar' whereever he attempts to go.

  8. P.Singh says:

    Give me a break.

    Mann of Pehowa is no saint. Moreover, if a “saint” is a rapist, he should be disparaged (if not strung up by his heels, and whipped to death).

    Mann of Pehowa is an embarrassment and detriment to the entire Sikh community, and no amount of chimtay rattling can deflect from the accusations made against him.

    Before dismissing the accusations, bear in mind, some of these women have gone public with these accusations, have little to gain, and much to lose, in addition to dealing with the stigma of rape in our community.

    Also keep in mind, many of us in the Sikh communities visited by Mann of Pehowa, have met with these women, and heard their stories.

    The courage of these women is phenomenal, especially in the face of such a huge betrayal of trust. Some of these women have not gone public for obvious reasons.

    I’ve had the opportunity to speak to one such woman, and have seen the effect of this crime on her family, her husband, and young children.

    If you want to support the Rapist Baba, do so elsewhere. As it is, American and Canadian sangats are showering him with ‘shittar’ whereever he attempts to go.

  9. ishwinder pal singh says:

    mann chand he is not singh .no body can point a finger on singhs and singhs are not rapeists ,so please stop calling him maan singh call him balatkari

  10. ishwinder pal singh says:

    mann chand he is not singh .no body can point a finger on singhs and singhs are not rapeists ,so please stop calling him maan singh call him balatkari

  11. […] details are still very sketchy, but it seems that a dera associated with the highly controversial Maan Singh Pehowa was burned down in Sacramento this past weekend. Maan Singh has been accused of […]

  12. Rajinder Singh says:

    Never say Never. Just look at where NASA discovered low life.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/16/nasa-discove

  13. Rajinder Singh says:

    Never say Never. Just look at where NASA discovered low life.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/16/nasa-discove

  14. […] But the Sikhs I’ve read about in history books weren’t dishonest ideologues hiding behind threats of mob violence, suggesting that a woman’s play represented some fundamental insult to their great heritage. Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru, gave up his life to protect the freedom of religion of Hindus. Frankly, I think he would have been disgusted that five years ago Sikhs were making death threats against Bhatti andpretending everything was hunky dory. […]

  15. […] he would have been disgusted that five years ago Sikhs were making death threats against Bhatti and pretending everything was hunky dory. It's unlikely Behud will raise the same level of controversy this time around. But don't take […]

  16. bonny says:

    tuhade aapas de vichaar hi ik dooje naal nai milde ta tusi kise da bhala ki karoge???

  17. bonny says:

    tuhade aapas de vichaar hi ik dooje naal nai milde ta tusi kise da bhala ki karoge???

  18. […] But the Sikhs I’ve read about in history books weren’t dishonest ideologues hiding behind threats of mob violence, suggesting that a woman’s play represented some fundamental insult to their great heritage. Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru, gave up his life to protect the freedom of religion of Hindus. Frankly, I think he would have been disgusted that five years ago Sikhs were making death threats against Bhatti and pretending everything was hunky dory. […]

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